Innocent Drinks has become Europe's number one smoothie brand after doubling its market share in the past 12 months.

A little over a year ago, own-label accounted for 23% of European smoothie sales volume, followed by Tropicana (19%) and Chiquita (16%), leaving Innocent in fourth place with 14% [Nielsen, 12w/e 18 July, 2009].

Fast-forward 12 months and the fruit drinks brand has overtaken all comers, doubling its volume share to 28% [Nielsen, 12w/e 19 June 2010] and growing sales by 56% to 25m.

Innocent co-founder Adam Balon attributed the growth to explosive sales in its take-home cartons, which have doubled in turnover to about 1m a month thanks to a lower price point. Clear marketing also helped, he added.

Innocent, which has a presence in 13 European countries, kicked off international expansion in Ireland a decade ago, but has stepped up efforts in the past three years, aided by Coca-Cola's £30m investment in the business in April 2009.

With European sales now representing 16% of revenue for Innocent's parent group, Fresh Trading, the company is market leader in Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, four of its seven key European markets.

Innocent was still on the back foot in Germany and Sweden, and France remained a tough nut to crack, Balon conceded, with the company playing second fiddle to Tropicana outside of Paris, but as a specialist smoothie brand it was well placed to champion category growth in the French market, he added. "Tropicana has been growing the market but people have got a bit confused about what smoothies are, because Tropicana is famous for orange juice," he said. "PepsiCo has definitely taken its foot off the gas and rearranged the business back towards juice, and we have taken up the running and started investing, and that is paying dividends."

Balon said Innocent was targeting a 40% volume share by the end of next year and had committed 15m to above-the-line activity to achieve this.

Although there were no plans to expand the international footprint in the short term, Spain, Italy and eastern Europe were the next obvious areas for expansion, he added.

The UK market was up 9.6% to £139m, and while far from pre-recession levels, Balon was optimistic of "continued growth" in Innocent's home market.

Coca-Cola raised its stake to 58% in April this year, with further investment believed to be worth £75m. Balon said this had been used to pay off Maurice Pinto, the angel investor whose initial £250,000 cash injection helped get Innocent off the ground.